Sunday, May 29, 2016

Creating an Impact in a World of Fauxtrage and Faketivism

I'm one of those people.  I read Supreme Court oral argument records.  I read science journals and business journals.  I read things I don't agree with, and discuss them (sometimes in person - gasp!) with people who don't agree with me (which means sometimes I learn my opinions are incorrect).   I visit my elected officials to tell them what I think.  I donate to charity.  I'm more involved in "how decisions are made" than about 80% of Americans.    But I would never call myself an activist, or a warrior, or even a true patriot.  I am a citizen, doing basic things that citizens are supposed to do.  Things that don't cost any money, save my donations to charity that usually range from $25 - $100 per year, per charity.     In other words, I - one of those people, am really the bare minimum (and less than that, on many days).

About 30 times per day, I come across a "poll" or a "petition" to "boycott XX company until they promise to make their stores safe to families!"    The hilariousness of this line in 2016 is that there's no way to tell whether it's left wing fanatics trying to get a company to "ban guns" (as if criminals will respect a gun ban), or it's right wing fanatics trying to get a company to "ban transgender bathrooms," as if child predators are daft enough to show up in obvious cross-dress attire in order to attack our children in a retail bathroom.    The bad guys are usually pretty adept at not overtly looking and acting like the bad guys- that's what we really know.   Legislating it, or making a company pass a "policy" that may or may not be illegal and may or may not be enforced, is just window dressing on our cultural fear of analyzing and discussing our very real problems with guns,  inequality, education, faith, persecution, public safety, children's safety, and so on and so forth.

That's depressingly good fun in and of itself, but what is more distressing is the endless geyser of feigned outrage expressed on social media and people referring to themselves as "activists" because they are willing to bully other social media users into removing or changing online content.    Let me spell it out here.   You do not have "outrage."  You are not an "activist."   You have risked nothing - not a job, not your reputation, not your lifestyle, and not your freedom.   To risk things would require outrage.   To risk things *might* make you an activist.    Don't send me another petition to "send a message!" because it is generally horse shit, and you know it.

So in case you're feeling really confused right now, here are some real activist things to do: 

1.    Get your ass to Washington DC or at least to your Congress Critter's district office in your home town.  Sit down and tell them what you think, and what your community needs.   See what happens next.    Feed that part of your humanity. 

2.  What is the current legal issue of greatest importance to you?  School funding? Gun rights?  Inequality and inclusiveness?   Avail yourself of "the internet," you know, the home of most of the world's recorded knowledge, and find out what federal, state, and local court cases are driving the current policy.  Are any cases pending in the courts?  Follow them for occasional updates.    Know what these cases are about.  Share what you learn (not just reposting what someone else reposted, who reposted it from a lobbyist).   We are a society of laws, after all.

3.   Volunteer your money or your time to something local that makes a small difference.    Unless you are at home with two toddlers all day, every day, with no support from partner or family, you have a little bit of spare time.   If the kids are at least 4 years old, bring them along.  I don't care that you might be working to support an issue that I totally disagree with.  Go do it.  It's good for the soul.    Doesn't matter if it's just planting one tree or folding 3 church bulletins before you have to go back to work.  

Here's the bottom line: if you are engaged, we can talk about important things and have an educated discussion.  We will see the look on each others' face and we will likely have some empathy for those with whom we disagree.  Sometimes, my position will be revealed to be wrong, or at least to be "less right" than yours.    The opposite will also happen.    Doing that makes us part of humanity.  And it makes us educated.    Don't be like so many who are trapped by thinking that "Hit 'Like' if you love the children, Hit 'Share' if you care about the children!" is some kind of action that makes a difference in others' lives.   "Likes" and "Shares" don't make us activists.  They merely make us scared of each other's shadows.


Phillip said...

It's been a while, but I'm glad I stopped in. Love what you're saying here. The very idea of citizens taking responsibility for citizenship seems to have slipped right on out the door. With the Internet, it's even easier to bail out on responsibility and take the easy route of clicking a Like button or sharing a post... nevermind the anonymity that allows people to say things they'd never say face-to-face.

Coy Hill said...

Excellent post, I could not agree more!